I have had a number of friends and family members who have lost loved ones through the years. Sadly, I never quite understood what to do when someone passes away. I mean, it feels awkward. If you’ve never been through it, you don’t know what they might be feeling. It’s hard to connect to their pain. You don’t want to do something dumb, so you don’t do anything at all.
When I lost Mom, I learned so many things. One of those things is how to better care for others when they lose a loved one. Here’s a list of the things people did for me that I appreciated. Every person grieves differently but a gesture of love will never go amiss.
Just being a human presence in the midst of the grief is an incredible gift – one that can feel very awkward for the giver. But let me tell you, having family and friends simply be with me during this time of great loss was the best gift they could have given. Being at the funeral, sitting across a table, bringing a meal – all ways that people were with me in my grief.
Listening is loving. Friends who asked questions or gave me space to talk about my Mom, about the funeral, about whatever was on my mind that day helped me more than they can ever imagine.
Allowing the Pain.
Our culture really hates pain. Just look at all the ways we work to stay out of pain – medicine, comedy shows, happy faces. Often as compassionate people we want to rush to alleviate the pain we see in our friends’ lives. This isn’t always helpful. I’ve found that the only way I have been able to embrace joy fully is to fully embrace pain. There is a time to mourn and a time for joy (Ecclesiastes 3:4). I am so thankful for the friends who allowed me to express deep pain – even when there was no neat bow to tie at the end of it.
I’ve always loved cards but I didn’t know how meaningful sympathy cards could be after losing a loved one. Just to know that someone else is thinking of you and went to the effort of putting a card in the mail was really comforting to me. Every single card I received meant so much to me. I didn’t send sympathy cards before I lost Mom. I do now.
I found flowers extremely comforting and hope-giving. People sent arrangements to the funeral service and brought flowers to my house. Especially meaningful were the bouquets that showed up at my door upon the 1st and 2nd month anniversaries of Mom’s death. Thank you friends who thought to do that.
Acknowledge the Loss.
In the past I frequently sought to minimize my own pain. I’m learning to not do that as much now. I have to say that it was quite validating when others recognized the significant loss that I experienced. When my Bible study friends said, “Let’s just stop and acknowledge that you have experienced huge loss,” it was so healing. It gave me permission to grieve with them.
Moving toward a friend in pain can be awkward but it will mean so much to them. The list above isn’t exhaustive. If you have gone through loss and have other ways that people meaningfully showed love to you, please share it below. I’d love to learn from you.